The only hope Republicans have for mayor at this point would be an unusual and assertive write-in campaign, after Republican Shaun McClusky officially became the fourth candidate in less than a week to be disqualified in his bid for the seat.
After Democratic Party activists challenged his petitions, the County Recorder's Office determined McClusky came up 52 signatures short of the 1,060 minimum requirement to secure a spot on the ballot.
McClusky, who announced Monday he was withdrawing from the race, did not show up at a court hearing Tuesday.
After his attorney, John Munger, said McClusky did not say definitively he would not run as a write-in candidate for mayor, Judge Richard Gordon formally ordered the city clerk to keep his name off the ballot - putting to rest any technical questions about whether a withdrawal before a formal court finding would have preserved his right to run as a write-in candidate.
With Democratic attorney Jonathan Rothschild the lone major-party candidate left in the race, Mayor Bob Walkup will not see his seat go to a member of his own party, absent a write-in campaign.
Brian Miller, head of the Pima County Republican Party, called that turn of events "an unfortunate circumstance" and said the party is exploring any options available to it.
Miller acknowledged that he personally didn't know of anyone champing at the bit for the seat. "Nothing has been ceded," he insisted. "There were mistakes made. Life goes on; politics goes on. But for now, we have two good City Council candidates, and we're going forward to make sure we get two more City Council seats."
A successful write-in candidate for mayor would essentially have to hit the same numbers as a candidate circulating petitions.
In the case of Republicans, for example, write-in candidates would have to get 1,060 voters to write in their name on ballots.
If they do, their name would appear on the general election as the Republican nominee, the same as candidates who went through the petition process.
Any interested candidates must file their intent to run as a write-in candidate by July 21 - although someone who already has had petitions thrown out is disqualified. Republicans McClusky and Ron Asta fell short of their requirements, as did independent candidate Pat Darcy. A fourth candidate, Democrat Marshall Home, was disqualified after it became evident he lived and voted from a county address.
Write-in campaigns are tough, but there is some historical precedent.
Democrat Brent Davis ran as a write-in candidate in the 1979 council race. He won the primary and then the general, ultimately serving until 1987.
For his part, Democrat Rothschild said he understands the concern that the community may not have the vigorous debate that would be a natural part of a competitive campaign cycle.
The only mayoral primary race belongs to the Green Party, which claims 1,239 of the county's 484,804 registered voters.
"I'm going to run the same campaign regardless of my opposition," Roths- child said. "In a way, it's a more challenging campaign for me because I have to get out there as much as possible and really outline what the goals are going to be." He said he plans to release a plan outlining what he will accomplish in his first 180 days in office and also plans to hold weekly news conferences to increase the transparency of the office.
Rothschild said he doesn't have a lot of sympathy for his ousted would-be challengers, saying he and his volunteers got the job done.
"There is this perception out there that rules haven't been followed in the city and that the city needs to be more strict. So here I am, doing everything by the rules," he said. "I really do intend to try to raise the standards."
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at email@example.com or 573-4243.